Movie Review: Django Unchained

Django-Unchained-Poster

Stars: Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, James Remar, Don Johnson

Rated R for strong graphic violence throughout, a vicious fight, language and some nudity, Running time 165 minutes, Action/Western

Compare to: The Good, the Bad, and the Weird (2008), Inglourious Basterds (2009)

In’s been a little of over three years since director Quintin Tarantino released his World War II spinoff, if you will and now we get Django Unchained. Not only was this worth the wait, it would easily go on any Top Ten I may feel the need to add some time soon from now.

The acting, the locales, the costumes, dialogue- anything you name is all just…good.

In 1858, a odd yet charismatic bounty hunter, King Schultz, rescues a slave named Django, hoping that imprisoned man will be able to help him find three brothers on the run. Django knows their faces, as it is the brothers’ fault that he and his wife have been separated and sold to different farms. After getting the reward on the brothers, Schultz offers to help Django not only find his wife, but to free her from the clutches of Calvin Candie; a powerful and ruthless slave owner who pits man against man for his own entertainment.

As I’ve said above, this film is just good. There’s nothing in it a fan of Westerns or Tarantino shouldn’t appreciate here and Django feels like a natural step forward for the director after 2009’s Inglourious Basterds. Much like Reservoir Dogs followed by Pulp Fiction, the former has been regarded as a great film with perhaps a little more dialogue and a little less movement, while the latter is a better balance. The same could be said for Basterds and Django, as Basterds was certainly great, Django strikes the center dead on in every way.

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Jamie Foxx plays the title character and while he definitely plays the part of a man abused and vengeful, he’s not the star here, or at least not the only one. Christoph Waltz has reunited with Tarantino and plays a man not that dissimilar to his Basterds  counterpart albeit much friendlier and with a nobler goal in mind. His scenes are among the best in the film due to his cleverness and likability alone.

DiCaprio himself is also great, something my ten-year old self never would have thought I’d ever admit to after seeing Titanic and thinking him something along the lines of a nineties Taylor Lautner or whatever other Twilight star. But DiCaprio is far from any actor in Twilight and any comparisons would be made only as jokes because there’s not remains of the The Basketball Diaries or Gilbert Grape here. In this film, Calvin Candie is the character and pitting slave against slave in a Fight Club-esque staged brawls are his game. It’s an interesting character who’s deeds alone would simply make him a disgusting, racially hateful villain. But DiCaprio gives the character life and at certain points makes you feel as though you could like him…until he allows a man to be ripped apart by his dogs.

The scene briefly mentioned above is possibly the most interesting of the movie, while not my favorite. It does, however, set the tone for the character of Django and it’s one that should shut the mouths of all critics who cry “racist” for the filmmakers who created it.

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This paragraph contains spoilers for said described scene.

After confronting a slave, keeping safe from Candies dogs in a tree, he sits on the ground sobbing from running for his life. He’s sick of fighting and killing. All comedy and hilarity and violence aside, it’s quite the somber scene and not played cynically but straight. Just before DiCaprio decides to let the dogs on the worn out man, Schultz offers to pay for the man’s freedom, more specifically so as to not let him be torn apart- but Django (still working with Schultz) argues for him to let him die. He’s playing a role so as to get closer to his wife and in this scene, we see that Django is not a man for the people, but for his wife.

The time and setting are near irrelevant to the now freed Django. Here we have a black man arguing for another black man’s horrible death, even arguing with a white man who wants to save him. It should shut the mouths of an whites assuming the movie is made as a gut punch to the white man while African-Americans who thought the film would be a slap in the face to whitey now know Django is on a rescue mission for his wife, not his entire race.

King Schultz and Django, out for blood.

King Schultz and Django, out for blood.

But my favorite scene involved a KKK raid and the debate on whether or not to wear masks- something that needs to be seen to be appreciated. The same could be said for Samuel L. Jackson’s character, performance, makeup and all.

All in all, this movie is one of the biggest reasons (more appealing to my adult side) I go to the movies. The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly is my all time favorite movie and though it would be much too brash to throw this in the same boat, it’s definitely one of the closer modern day incarnations we’ve had in a while.

The film doesn’t advocate violence, racial hatred, or any other stereotypes that seem to go along with movies that involve “touchy” subjects; it simply tells a great story. What you decide to take away from it is up to you.

Grade: A

For the heck of it: In DiCaprio’s introduction scene, the gentleman entertained by Candie is Franco Nero: the man who played Django in the film Tarantino borrowed the name from.

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